, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 18 – The East African Community has deployed a 40-member election observer team to monitor Kenya’s March 4 polls.
The team is headed by former East African Legislative Assembly Speaker Abdulrahman Kinana.
Kinana urged Kenyans to turn up in large numbers to exercise their civil and legal rights in an environment that promotes competition and tolerance and elect their leaders peacefully.
“Elections are usually characterised by various political temperatures. There are times that it will go too high to the extent that raises concern that things might tip over, but that is expected of any process that is run by a man, because people have different stands, different ideals and different goals and they all want to win,” he said during the unveiling of the team.
“It is my hope that Kenyans will unite to ensure they have an election that’s free and credible.”
The group’s mandate is to assess the democratic standards in the Kenyan electoral systems, the preparedness of the election process by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the voter education, the voting process and the tallying processes.
The group will be required to submit an independent report and submit it to the EAC in order for the regional body to dissect the level of transparency, free and fairness, as well as democracy in the country.
He said that they will only be in the country to monitor the process but its Kenyans who will determine how to express their democratic rights under the new constitutional and political dispensation.
“The EAC mission, apart from observing elections, will also provide a supportive role that enhances the credibility of the elections, complement the findings of domestic observer groups and increase public confidence in the entire electoral process,” he said.
He said Kenya is an integral part of the EAC in terms of infrastructural, economic and industrial development.
EAC Secretary General Richard Sezibera said that there are plans to ensure for more deployments from IGAD and COMESA to which Kenya is a key member.
He lauded the country’s media for the historic presidential debate saying that the electoral process is people centred.
Commenting ahead of the deployment, Sezibera said: “The membership includes members of the East African Legislative Assembly, National Electoral Commissions, National Human Rights Commissions, and Youth Representatives from EAC Youth Ambassadors Forum. The nominations were based on the principle of gender balance and youth involvement.”
Sezibera challenged other member states to emulate the developments made by the country as well as join hands to make such events more frequent during the electioneering period.
“In the long term, the mission will contribute to strengthening political accountability amongst partner states, provide an avenue for partner states to share experiences on election management and facilitate peer learning.”
Sezibera said that the regional body will work with whichever government Kenyans put in power and urged the international community mainly from the West to respect the will of the Kenyan electorate.
“Come March 4 the people of Kenya will have spoken, and we will have to listen very carefully to what the people of Kenya have said. It’s not for anybody else to interpret what the people of Kenya have said, the rest of the world only have to listen, take note and accept their will,” he said.